How many of us are stuck in a rut in the name of a career? Or doing something because you have no otherwise? Well, not George Njuguna Njoroge aka DJ Crème de la Crème. Acclaimed philosopher Confucius once said, “Pick a job you love and you will never have to work again.” In 2002, that is exactly what he did when he discovered the world of disc jockeying and decided to make it his life’s work, even after graduating with a Bachelor in Computer Science. ESTHER AKELLO takes a sneak peek at the many faces and phases of DJ Crème de la Crème and his undeniable rise to success.
When I first meet 31-year-old disc jockey, Crème de la Crème or DJ Crème, as he is popularly known, it is for a pre-arranged shoot for this publication. With a serious facial expression, he insists on giving me a firm handshake introducing himself as George Njuguna.
Thanks to the larger than life reputation that precedes him, I expect him to behave like a prima donna. However, in a matter of minutes, I am pleasantly surprised as his humble charisma takes centre stage and his effortless unassuming ability to make one feel like they are the most important person in the room, wins me over.
Fast forward to a month later and I get a front row seat into the life and times of a self-confessed book-worm who left the security of a degree in Computer Science, to venture into disc jockeying when most people considered the industry to be for jokers, school drop-outs and perennial party animals.
“I read. A lot. Infact, I was index one in my high school,” says Crème.
Quitting the day job…
Music, according to Crème, was never a part of the plan but while attending a concert in 2002, a DJ took over the decks to entertain revellers and the crowd went wild with excitement. He became hooked.
“After seeing the attention the DJ got from the audience, I knew I wanted to be like him. I knew I could do the same thing, 10 times better and profitably,” Crème explains.
Determined, he embarked on teaching himself the tricks of the trade while still taking his Computer Science studies at Kabarak University in Nakuru. Instead of doing simple audio mixes, he incorporated the corresponding music videos, a little-known trend then, hence establishing a niche for himself. His hard work would soon pay off after word of his self-styled ingenuity spread, attracting big clubs in Nakuru and eventually, a job. To balance between his studies and his job, he would study during the week and DJ over the weekends.
In 2004, he graduated with honours in Computer Science. His parents insisted that he find a job within his line of study and got hired as a systems administrator with a local firm in Nairobi. Despite this, he still maintained his disc jockeying job in Nakuru.
“I would travel to Nakuru from Nairobi every Friday evening, and catch the last bus out of Nakuru at 11 pm every Sunday,” reminisces Crème.
However in 2007, after a year of juggling both worlds, Crème made up his mind.
“I was not deriving any satisfaction from my office job so after a lot of self evaluation, I resigned to pursue disc jockeying full time,” he says.
But self-satisfaction was about to become the least of Crème’s concerns. Shortly after his resignation, negotiations for a new contract with the club’s management in Nakuru hit a snag and Crème found himself out of a job.
Unemployed and with bills to pay, Crème had to think fast. He then had a radical idea.
“Back then, few people thought of the matatu industry as a major entertainment market. I would walk to local stalls and other businesses and convince them to let me advertise for them in my video DVD’s for a small fee and then sell them to matatus,” says Crème. It was also then that Crème dropped his former moniker, ‘Sir George’, in favour of ‘Crème de la crème’ which means the best of the best in French. Soon enough, Crème was back in the game raking in close to Kshs. 40,000 a month. With his name now on people’s lips, his ambition burnt stronger. He then did what he knew best, study. While doing some research on the Internet in his hometown of Kericho, he happened to bump into the elite, Code Red DJ’s Unit website. In a leap of faith, he contacted the outfit’s founder, Allan Muigai, popularly known as DJ Stylez. Stylez invited him to their offices in Nairobi and after seeing his video mix portfolio, immediately gave Crème a job.
However happy he was to have a job, Crème who had also stopped his matatu video-mix distribution business, realised that he had to start from the ground up again. His rare skill to edit video mixes would set him apart from the pack and when mainstream media came calling, the Code Red unit recommended him as the house DJ for music shows on Capital FM and the now defunct Metro TV. After doing the shows for almost a year, Crème reached his saturation point and by August of 2008, without so much as a plan B, resigned.
Going, going, gone!
Out of a job again, Crème decided, again, to start from the ground up. The challenge however was short-lived after an old friend, interested in doing a show with a local TV station, invited Crème to be the show’s resident DJ. Soon, Xtreem Live, a music mix show, went on air on Citizen TV and with it, Crème’s obscurity.
But his meteoric rise on national television did not stop there. In 2010, Sakata, a dance show on Citizen TV came calling and Crème was invited to be the resident DJ. With the newfound fame, came more gigs and soon Crème was the headlining DJ for international artistes touring the country including popular Jamaican reggae artiste, Alaine, US hip-hop diva Eve, Angolan pop artiste Cabo Snoop and US RnB group 112. He has since had gigs in Dubai, Tanzania, Qatar, Australia, Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi, Burundi and South Sudan.
In 2012, he stepped out of the shadows in a big way. Instead of simply doing audio mixes, the producers of Sakata invited him to be the show’s host alongside pop singer, Size 8. In Crème’s own words, his career, ‘sky rocketed’.
His work on Sakata soon landed him a nomination as Best video jockey on the teen’s music awards dubbed, Chaguo la Teeniez.
“That same year, Channel O, a music channel on Africa’s biggest pay TV network, DStv, picked him to be one of East Africa’s representatives on the music show Bassment, which boasts of having the best selection of Africa’s top DJ’s.
He then opened his apparels clothing line Epic Nation, which has since taken a life of its own and branched into events organisation, TV and music production.
Epic Nation is currently producing three shows on regional pay-tv networks and organises the Hakuna Matata Festival. The big dogs also sat up and noticed. Soon invitations to collaborate with big corporate bodies, something Crème had not thought of, started pouring in.
“I was rebellious of and mildly intimidated by the corporate image. So when invitations for meetings came in, I would send someone else to sit in for me,” admits Crème.
However, he soon realised that he was losing out on millions of shillings in business deals and decided to rise to the challenge. Deciding to bank on his brand, he started showing up for the meetings himself.
It is better to give…
However it is not all about climbing the corporate ladder. Family responsibilities are also a major part of his life. He is married to Denise Njuguna with whom he has a 20-month-old-son, Jamari Njoroge, whom he dotes on and is expecting the arrival of a little girl sometime in April this year. His dad is also his biggest role model.
Crème also believes in corporate social responsibility. While he remains a big proponent of education, he acknowledges that a lot of youth lose hope when they do not meet the curriculum standard of what is considered a ‘pass’ to get into universities. To that effect, he has given numerous motivational speeches in churches and schools to challenge young people to think out of the box when it comes to employment.
So determined is he to reach out to them that he hopes to launch his mentorship programme, Epic Leaders, this year. He also mentors upcoming DJ’s.
In 2013, Crème was nominated as the best African DJ and best East African DJ in the African Global DJ awards. In early 2014, he was inaugurated as one of Kenya’s best DJ’s in the Kenya Book of Records alongside other notable figures including the late freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi and president Uhuru Kenyatta. He was also nominated as one of the best DJs in Africa in the 2014 African Muzik Magazine Awards (AFRIMMA), a feat he says is very humbling.
“I can’t really say I remember when I knew I was famous, but being nominated is a testament that finally, I must be doing something right. I still get surprised when people ask me for an autograph,” says Crème.
Realising just how much he works, I ask him if it ever stops, to which he shakes his head chuckling.
“Sometimes I have to take catnaps in between meetings or even in my car because of my busy schedule. One does not have a lot of time in this industry and it is easy to be forgotten. My biggest fear is to be forgotten,” concludes Crème.
Published in January 2015.